Asphaltene precipitation is caused by a number of factors including changes in pressure, temperature, and composition. The two most prevalent causes of asphaltene precipitation in the reservoir are decreasing pressure and mixing of oil with injected solvent in improved oil recovery (IOR) processes. Drilling, completion, acid stimulation, and hydraulic fracturing activities can also induce precipitation in the near-wellbore region. This page focuses on field and laboratory observations associated with asphaltene precipitation during primary depletion and IOR gas injection, along with the experimental measurements used for asphaltene precipitation. Heavier crudes that contain a larger amount of asphaltene have very few asphaltene precipitation problems because they can dissolve more asphaltene.
This article describes the chemical make-up and application of the types of gels most commonly used in conformance improvement. Oilfield conformance improvement gels come in a wide range of forms and chemistries. Table 1 provides an overview of various conformance improvement gels. CC/AP gels have an exceptionally robust gel chemistry and are highly insensitive to oilfield and reservoir interferences and environments. They are also applicable over an exceptionally broad pH range. As a result, these gels, when properly formulated, are applicable to the acidic conditions associated with CO2 flooding for which most earlier oilfield polymer gels did not function well.
Although conformance-improvement gel treatments have existed for a number of decades, their widespread use has only begun to emerge. Early oilfield gels tended to be stable and function well during testing and evaluation in the laboratory, but failed to be stable and to function downhole as intended because they lacked robust chemistries. Also, because of a lack of modern technology, many reservoir and flooding conformance problems were not understood, correctly depicted, or properly diagnosed. In addition, numerous individuals and organizations tended to make excessive claims about what early oilfield gel technologies could and would do. The success rate of these gel treatments was low and conducting such treatments was considered high risk. As a result, conformance-improvement gel technologies developed a somewhat bad reputation in the industry. Only recently has this reputation begun to improve. The information presented in this chapter can help petroleum engineers evaluate oilfield conformance gels and their field application on the basis of well-founded-scientific, sound-engineering, and field-performance merits.
Actually, the definition of a tight gas reservoir is a function of many factors, each relating to Darcy's law. The main problem with tight gas reservoirs is that they do not produce at economic flow rates unless they are stimulated--normally by a large hydraulic fracture treatment. Eq. 7.1 illustrates the main factors controlling flow rate.
Case studies can be instructive in the evaluation of other coalbed methane (CBM) development opportunities. The San Juan basin, located in New Mexico and Colorado in the southwestern U.S. (Figure 1), is the most prolific CBM basin in the world. It produces more than 2.5 Bscf/D from coals of the Cretaceous Fruitland formation, which is estimated to contain 43 to 49 Tscf of CBM in place. For a long time, the Fruitland formation coals were recognized only as a source of gas for adjacent sandstones. In the 1970s, after years of encountering gas kicks in these coals, operators recognized that the coal seams themselves were capable of commercial gas rates. CBM development benefited greatly from drilling and log data compiled from previous wells targeting the deeper sandstones and an extensive pipeline infrastructure that was built to transport conventional gas. These components, along with a U.S. federal tax credit and the development of new technologies such as openhole-cavity completions, fueled a drilling boom that resulted in more than 3,000 producing CBM wells by the end of 1992. The thickest Fruitland coals occur in a northwest/southeast trending belt located in the northeastern third of the basin. Total coal thickness in this belt locally exceeds 100 ft and individual coal seams can be more than 30 ft thick. The coals originated in peat swamps located landward (southwest) of northwest/southeast trending shoreline sandstones of the underlying Pictured Cliffs formation. The location of the thickest coals (Figure 1) coincides with the occurrence of overpressuring, high gas content, high coal rank, and high permeabilities in the San Juan fairway ("fairway"). The overpressuring is artesian in origin and is caused by water recharge of the coals through outcrops along the northern margin of the basin. This generates high vertical pressure gradients, ranging from 0.44 to 0.63 psi/ft, which allow a large amount of gas to be sorbed to the coal. Coal gas in the San Juan basin can contain up to 9.4% CO2 and 13.5% C2 . Chemical analyses suggest that thermogenic gases have been augmented by migrated thermogenic and secondary biogenic gas sources, resulting in gas contents ranging up to 700 ft 3 /ton. Coal rank in the fairway ranges from medium- to low-volatile bituminous and roughly coincides with those portions of the basin that were most deeply buried. Coals in the fairway typically have low ash and high vitrinite contents, resulting in large gas storage capacities and excellent permeabilities of 10 md from well-developed cleat systems.
Tight gas is the term commonly used to refer to low permeability reservoirs that produce mainly dry natural gas. Many of the low permeability reservoirs that have been developed in the past are sandstone, but significant quantities of gas are also produced from low permeability carbonates, shales, and coal seams. Production of gas from coal seams is covered in a separate chapter in this handbook. In this chapter, production of gas from tight sandstones is the predominant theme. However, much of the same technology applies to tight carbonate and to gas shale reservoirs. Tight gas reservoirs have one thing in common--a vertical well drilled and completed in the tight gas reservoir must be successfully stimulated to produce at commercial gas flow rates and produce commercial gas volumes. Normally, a large hydraulic fracture treatment is required to produce gas economically.
Phase behavior plays an important role in a variety of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) processes. Such processes are designed to overcome, in one way or another, the capillary forces that act to trap oil during waterflooding. Interpretation of phase diagrams is particularly important in the design of surfactant/polymer processes and gas-injection processes. In surfactant/polymer displacement processes, the effects of capillary forces are reduced by injection of surfactant solutions that contain molecules with oil- and water-soluble portions. Such molecules migrate to the oil/water interface and reduce the interfacial tension, thereby reducing the magnitude of the capillary forces that resist movement of trapped oil. Figure 1 shows phase diagrams typical of those used to describe the behavior of surfactant systems.
A useful first step in the characterization of any new coal area is to compare its characteristics with those of successful CBM projects. Table 2 summarizes the characteristics of several successful projects in the US and includes parameters related to reservoir properties, gas production, gas resources, and economics. The table shows that successful projects have many similarities, including high permeabilities and high gas resource concentration; however, the table does not include aspects such as government incentives or high-value markets, which could elevate a marginal project to commercial status.
The process of drilling and completing coalbed methane (CBM) wells is similar to wells in conventional reservoirs. Coring, however, can pose special challenges. The first step in creating a drilling program for a CBM well involves gathering information about existing wells in a given area. After these data are gathered and analyzed, a preliminary drilling and completion prognosis can be drafted with the input of field operations personnel. An important aspect in drilling frontier or appraisal wells is to keep the drilling procedures relatively simple.
Unlike conventional reservoirs, coal seams are the source, trap, and reservoir for coalbed methane (CBM). A comparison of the two reservoir types shows profound differences in reservoir properties, storage mechanisms, flow mechanisms, and production profiles. Organic matter constitutes more than 50% of coal by weight and more than 70% by volume. Type refers to the variety of organic constituents.